Strategies for success

May 09, 2017

I’ve written and said it many times. AEC firms have many different paths to success. There is no ONE single formula that always works better. Nor is there one magic bullet – a single thing a firm does or way it does something that makes it successful. Usually, it is a unique combination of many different things that makes up the “success” formula.

That said, here are some things that I have learned (or relearned) in the last seven years since I came back to the company I started in 1988 and sold in 2004:

  1. Spend your time on what’s working versus what isn’t. Our tendency is to do the exact opposite. We spend time and energy and resources trying to fix what isn’t working instead of spending the same time, energy, and resources on what IS working. As a result, we get frustrated and fail to capitalize on the opportunities that are right there in front of us. And remember – if something isn’t working – maybe there is a reason outside of your control.
  2. If you are the boss, one of, if not the single most, important things you do is recruit. You have to constantly build your team. You cannot just delegate this crucial activity to others in your organization. It will take your active personal involvement to find the truly great people you need to fill vacancies as well as those you need to add because they will bring new opportunities to the rest of your team. Recruiting takes selling. You have to be selling people on why your firm is a great place to work. It also takes creativity. You have to find new people using methods that everyone else isn’t using. If you think that means going to LinkedIn, you’re wrong!
  3. Getting your second-in-command in place is crucial! It will ensure continuity of the firm if something happens to you. It is also the only chance you have at personal liberation. And it cannot happen overnight. The person you select has to earn the respect of everyone else in your firm. If they can’t, they won’t ever be able to succeed you.
  4. Everyone who works for you needs their second-in-command on board as well. Because if they don’t have them, you’re vulnerable. Someone could get sick or die or suddenly leave for a new opportunity. You cannot afford to be setback by a problem that you should have anticipated. That’s just stupid.
  5. Marketing takes a continuous and increasing investment if you want your firm to grow. Show me a firm that isn’t growing over a couple-year period and I will show you one that hasn’t increased its marketing budget during that time frame. There is a direct link between what you spend and what comes out the other end. Not to say all marketing expenditures are good. Some work and some don’t. That said, NOT spending more and expecting revenues to go up is unrealistic.
  6. Get someone good answering your phones. This is no place for someone who sounds like they’ve had a lobotomy or cannot pronounce your company name or always gets phone numbers and names confused. You need someone intelligent and motivated on that front desk! So be equipped to pay better than starting wages for a McDonald’s worker if that’s what you want. Have a high standard for this crucial front door to your company!

I could go on but I’m out of time. Have a wonderful week and make it happen!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

This article is from issue 1194 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.